Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What's So Amazing that Keeps Us Stargazing ...

This morning I awoke (again, after ignoring my 5:30 a.m. cell phone alarm) to a glimpse of a peach-and-blue-tinged sky, the beginning of a beautiful sunrise, lifting my spirits for the day before I could lift my body out of my warm bed. Even more enchanting was another clear view of Venus and Jupiter moving closer together in their orbits around the sun. In just a couple more days, they will appear to be nearly touching in the early morning sky, just before sunrise.

Astronomy was one of my favorite classes in college, and after Christmas, I was excited to purchase a wall calendar with dates, charts, and highlights of the night sky for 2008. (Max was excited about the compass that came with the calendar.)

January offered clear sightings of Mars, Saturn, and Mercury as well. I had hoped to enjoy the showers from the Quadrantid meteors early in the month, but the nights were cold and cloudy and I was not feeling well to patiently watch the sky. Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I, the United States' first orbiting spacecraft. According to A Year of The Night Sky 2008 stargazers' calendar, Explorer I was a United States Army mission and our country's first successful satellite. Perhaps.

The month of February will include other heavenly delights for fellow stargazers:
In February, we will be able to see Mars from dusk until four in the morning, but its magnitude (brightness) will fade during the month. Mercury will be difficult to view from our latitude (but Beloved Heather and Family in India will be able to see it well about thirty minutes before sunrise). Check out the early morning sky on February 4 to see Venus, Jupiter, and a cresent moon gathered together in the sky. The evening of February 21 will give us a rare view of a full lunar eclipse, 51 minutes in its totatilty. And, as a testament to the rapid growth of technology during our lifetimes, February 24 marks the 40th anniversary of scientists' discovery of the first pulsar, defined as "rapidly rotating neutron stars left over after some supernova explosions."

Happily, two little boys also woke up in good moods today, their little eyes shining like stars and planets in the first hours of the day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Kids Say the Funniest Things

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to leave for wrestling practice, Mitchell said to me, with his voice full of enthusiasm and a bit of something sneaky, "Mommy, I know one for your blog." During the day, we often say to each other, "That would be a great idea for a blog!" since the three of us each have our own blogs online. Without waiting for my response, Mitchell explained his idea with a mischievous grin, "Mommy ate chocolates all day." I smiled at his humor, especially since it is _so_ not true. At least, not yesterday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bittersweets for the Not-So-Sweet

Oooh, if you hurry, you can still order these in time for Valentine's Day ...

My Kids Say the Funniest Things

Last week, we were getting ready to leave the house for an outing, and the three of us were probably engaged in three separate, animated conversations with one another. The two boys probably had five more private and equally fascinating conversations overflowing in their own heads. At that moment, we were discussing how much the world has changed since their 81 year-old Great-Nana Burdorf (she doesn't look a day over fifty!) was little like them. "When we're adults, I can't imagine how technology will grow. Maybe they'll invent a jet pack by then," Max said to me in a very grown-up way about himself and his brother. Then remembering a long-ago visit to one of his favorite websites,, he added, "Oh, actually, they alreay have."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On My Bookshelf

Here are the books -- gifts from a friend, discounted overstocks at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, a late-night order from, and a couple of regular-priced purchases -- that are stacked up on my bookshelf, ready for reading for the rest of this cold and beautiful winter of 2008:

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
Me and Emma by Elizabeth Flock
Thirteen Moons Charles Frazier

Here are the books I have been working on for awhile but I had set aside temporarily because they were hard to read late at night:

The Case for Christ
Gang of One by Fan Shen
The Ocean in the Closet Tuko Taniguchi
Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Driven to Distraction

Here are the books I am currently reading:

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears
The Seat of the Mind by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On My Bookshelf: 2007 Good Reads

12/07 The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
11/07 Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
6/24/07 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni
6/6/07 A Year By the Sea by Joan Anderson
6/3/07 Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
5/27/07 Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
5/27/07 For One More Day by Mitch Albom
4/21/07 A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve
4/20/07 Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
4/10/07 Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
3/31/07 The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
3/2/07 The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
2/23/07 The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve
2/22/07 The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
1/29/07 Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
1/28/07 My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
1/11/07 The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
1/9/07 Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
1/6/07 The Most Wanted by Jacquelyn Mitchard
My favorite "great escape" for 2007 was The Time Traveler's Wife. I loved that book. The book that most expanded my view of the world was Three Cups of Tea. Author Greg Mortensen is coming to Rochester on February 11 in honor of the annual Rochester Reads program. I am excited to meet him. The biggest "wow" ending happened in The Last Time They Met. You have to read it yourself! The book that left me feeling sad was The Glass Castle but I'm so glad I read it so I can understand humanity better. The book I loved but didn't think I would was Water for Elephants. Thanks to my parents and teachers for helping me love reading, and thanks to my book club for choosing such outstanding selections (and for serving such yummy drinks, delicious food, and fantastic girl talk!).

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Christmas Card Promise

If you are here looking for those great stories from last year that didn't fit ;) in the annual 16-page Christmas card, please check back again. The stories and the pictures are ready; my body and mind are not! Happy New Year! And wait until you hear what happened with Gumdrop in 2007 ...

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year, New Clothes

Last night I had to get out of the house for a little while. Fresh air and 2008 calendars and clothes for Max Who Grows Like Bamboo.

Last fall, he decided to try an experiment on himself. I read him a newspaper article about a mother who bought 14 gallons of milk a week for her three young triplets. He thought that amount of milk was huge, and suddendly he began drinking unbelievable amounts of Silk Vanilla Soy Milk. I thought he wanted to top that woman's weekly milk bill. After each meal, he would weigh himself on the scale, so proud each time he gained several ounces. During the course of about three weeks, he gained about four pounds. Finally, he confessed. "I'm trying to outgrow my car seat." He was hoping to reach the doctor-recommended 80-pound threshold so he could enjoy the seat warmers in Daddy's car. That part of his plan didn't work, but he quickly outgrew the pants and underwear and snowpants I thought he would easily wear all winter.

So last night I bought ... gasp ... size ten pants for my eight year-old who used to be peanut, peanut, peanut. The lady at Gymboree -- earn your Gymbucks now, Moms -- said to me, "Do you have a little boy at home?" and I replied, "He's not so little anymore. I can't believe I am buying SIZE TEN!" The same "little" boy who wore size two, size four, size six forever. The same boy who was on the zero percentile chart for height and weight for the first five years of his life. (Yes, I know the flaws of the percentile charts.) The same boy who needed bone age scans and blood tests to make sure he was growing properly. The same boy who took almost three years to triple his birth weight, a feat most babies accomplish by their first birthday.

This morning he tried on the pants -- five pairs -- and the shirts -- three, with long sleeves -- and when he got to the pair of navy blue sweatpants, he said, "Oh, Heavenly. Now these are the ones I like." It was like listening to a chocolate lover enjoy a towering piece of rich chocolate cake. He sighed deeply, closed his eyes, and told me again, "Heavenly. What do they put in these? Cotton?"